AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa's Resources
Student Researcher: Ioana Lupu
Faculty Evaluator: Marco Calavita, Ph.D
In February 2007 the White House announced the formation of the US
African Command (AFRICOM), a new unified Pentagon command center in
Africa, to be established by September 2008. This military penetration
of Africa is being presented as a humanitarian guard in the Global War
on Terror. The real objective is, however, the procurement and control
of Africa's oil and its global delivery systems.
The most significant and growing challenge to US dominance in
Africa is China. An increase in Chinese trade and investment in Africa
threatens to substantially reduce US political and economic leverage
in that resource-rich continent. The political implication of an
economically emerging Africa in close alliance with China is resulting
in a new cold war in which AFRICOM will be tasked with achieving
full-spectrum military dominance over Africa.
AFRICOM will replace US military command posts in Africa,
which were formerly under control of US European Command (EUCOM) and
US Central Command (CENTCOM), with a more centralized and intensified
US military presence.
A context for the pending strategic role of AFRICOM can be
gained from observing CENTCOM in the Middle East. CENTCOM grew out of
the Carter Doctrine of 1980 which described the oil flow from the
Persian Gulf as a "vital interest" of the US, and affirmed that the US
would employ "any means necessary, including military force" to
overcome an attempt by hostile interests to block that flow.
It is in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa that the US military
force is most rapidly increasing, as this area is projected to become
as important a source of energy as the Middle East within the next
decade. In this region, challenge to US domination and exploitation is
coming from the people of Africamost specifically in Nigeria, where
seventy percent of Africa's oil is contained.
People native to the Niger Delta region have not benefited,
but instead suffered, as a result of sitting on top of vast natural
oil and natural gas deposits. Nigerian people's movements are
demanding self-determination and equitable sharing of oil-receipts.
Environmental and human rights activists have, for years, documented
atrocities on the part of oil companies and the military in this
region. As the tactics of resistance groups have shifted from petition
and protest to more proactive measures, attacks on pipelines and oil
facilities have curtailed the flow of oil leaving the region. As a
Convergent Interests report puts it, "Within the first six months of
2006, there were nineteen attacks on foreign oil operations and over
$2.187 billion lost in oil revenues; the Department of Petroleum
Resources claims this figure represents 32 percent of `the revenue the
country [Nigeria] generated this year.'"
Oil companies and the Pentagon are attempting to link these
resistance groups to international terror networks in order to
legitimize the use of the US military to "stabilize" these areas and
secure the energy flow. No evidence has been found however to link the
Niger Delta resistance groups to international terror networks or
jihadists. Instead the situation in the Niger Delta is that of
ethnic-nationalist movements fighting, by any means necessary, toward
the political objective of self-determination. The volatility
surrounding oil installations in Nigeria and elsewhere in the
continent is, however, used by the US security establishment to
justify military "support" in African oil producing states, under the
guise of helping Africans defend themselves against those who would
hinder their engagement in "Free Trade."
The December 2006 invasion of Somalia was coordinated using
US bases throughout the region. The arrival of AFRICOM will
effectively reinforce efforts to replace the popular Islamic Courts
Union of Somalia with the oil industryfriendly Transitional Federal
Government. Meanwhile, the persistent Western calls for "humanitarian
intervention" into the Darfur region of Sudan sets up another
possibility for military engagement to deliver regime change in
another Islamic state rich in oil reserves.
Hunt warns that this sort of "support" is only bound to
increase as rhetoric of stabilizing Africa makes the dailies, copied
directly out of official AFRICOM press releases. Readers of the
mainstream media can expect to encounter more frequent usage of terms
like "genocide" and "misguided." He notes that already corporate media
decry China's human rights record and support for Sudan and Zimbabwe
while ignoring the ongoing violations of Western corporations engaged
in the plunder of natural resources, the pollution other peoples'
homelands, and the "shoring up" of repressive regimes.
In FY 2005 the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative
received $16 million; in FY 2006, nearly $31 million. A big increase
is expected in 2008, with the administration pushing for $100 million
each year for five years. With the passage of AFRICOM and continued
promotion of the Global War on Terror, Congressional funding is likely
to increase significantly.
In the end, regardless of whether it's US or Chinese
domination over Africa, the blood spilled will be African. Hunt
concludes, "It does not require a crystal ball or great imagination to
realize what the increased militarization of the continent through
AFRICOM will bring to the peoples of Africa."
Update by Bryan Hunt
By spring 2007, US Department of Energy data showed that the United
States now imports more oil from the continent of Africa than from the
country of Saudi Arabia. While this statistic may be of surprise to
the majority, provided such information even crosses their radar, it's
certainly not the case for those figures who have been pushing for
increased US military engagement on that continent for some time now,
as my report documented. These import levels will rise.
In the first few months following the official announcement
of AFRICOM, details are still few. It's expected that the combatant
command will be operational as a subunit of EUCOM by October 2007,
transitioning to a full-fledged stand-alone command some twelve months
later. This will most likely entail the re-locating of AFRICOM
headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany, where EUCOM is headquartered, to
an African host country.
In April, US officials were traversing the continent to
present their sales pitch for AFRICOM and to gauge official and public
reaction. Initial perceptions are, not surprisingly, negative and
highly suspect, given the history of US military involvement
throughout the world, and Africa's long and bitter experience with
Outside of a select audience, reaction in the United States
has barely even registered. First of all, Africa is one of the
least-covered continents in US media. And when African nations do draw
media attention, coverage typically centers on catastrophe, conflict,
or corruption, and generally features some form of benevolent foreign
intervention, be it financial and humanitarian aid, or stern official
posturing couched as paternal concerns over human rights. But US
military activity on the continent largely goes unnoticed. This was
recently evidenced by the sparse reporting on military support for the
invasion of Somalia to rout the Islamic Courts Union and reinstall the
unpopular warlords who had earlier divided up the country. The
Pentagon went so far as to declare the operation a blueprint for
The DOD states that a primary component of AFRICOM's mission
will be to professionalize indigenous militaries to ensure stability,
security, and accountable governance throughout Africa's various
states and regions. Stability refers to establishing and maintaining
order, and accountability, of course, refers to US interests. This
year alone, 1,400 African military officers are anticipated to
complete International Military Education and Training programs at US
Combine this tasking of militarization with an increased
civilian component in AFRICOM emphasizing imported conceptions of
"democracy promotion" and "capacity-building" and African autonomy and
sovereignty are quick to suffer. Kenyans, for example, are currently
finding themselves in this position.
It is hoped that, by drawing attention to the growing US footprint on
Africa now, a contextual awareness of these issues can be useful to,
at the very least, help mitigate some of the damages that will surely
follow. At the moment, there is little public consciousness of AFRICOM
and very few sources of information outside of official narratives.
Widening the public dialogue on this topic is the first step toward
addressing meaningful responses.
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